(photo credit: Channel 10)
The annual break in yeshiva studies following the Tisha Be'av fast took another heavy toll on Monday, when four yeshiva students were killed in a single-vehicle accident in the Arava.
The accident brought to a total of seven the number of yeshiva students killed in the past two weeks while on vacation.
Family members of the five students, who had gone on a jeep excursion in the Judean Desert, became increasingly concerned throughout Monday evening as neither friends nor family could reach any of the young men on their cellular phones.
By midnight, fearing the worst, family members contacted police, who began a search.
The Arava volunteer search and rescue team, as well as Zaka and the IDF's 669 rescue unit, jointed in the search, based on the young men's last cellphone signal.
Eventually a volunteer team combing the area near the Arava junction reached the end of a steep wadi in Nahal Pares and silenced their engines to listen for cries. When they did, rescuers heard a lone voice calling for help.
Turning their spotlights on, the team followed the sound and found a horrifying scene. The youths' jeep had rolled down an 80-meter embankment, and the bodies of its passengers were scattered across the accident scene.
Rescuers believe the accident occurred around 5 p.m., when the group accidentally drove onto a path meant for hikers and not suitable for motorized vehicles. On a steep incline, police believe, the jeep slipped backwards and rolled down the hill. By the time rescuers arrived, the five victims had been trapped in the wadi for approximately 10 hours without cellphone reception or any other means of calling for help.
The only survivor of the crash was the jeep's driver, a 21-year-old Elad resident. After remaining conscious for 10 hours alone in the desert, calling for help, the youth finally passed out as he saw 669's rescue helicopters approaching to evacuate him to safety. Suffering from injuries to his head and face, the youth was initially listed in critical condition, but his condition stabilized and improved en route to Soroka Medical Center.
A day after the crash, he remains in good-to-moderate condition at the Beersheba hospital.
But the four other passengers in the jeep were all dead by the time rescuers reached the scene.
The victims were identified on Tuesday morning as Sinai Shirazi, 20, and his brother Amir, 23, both from Netanya; Gilad Dahari, 26, from Elyachin; and Kiryat Ye'arim resident Avi Rosenfeld, 22, whose wife is currently eight months pregnant with the couple's first child.
Also overnight Monday, a three-year-old girl was killed when her father accidentally ran her over in Wadi Ara.
According to the initial police investigation, toddler Lin Ghana'im and her family were preparing to drive home from a wedding when she got out of the car unnoticed. When her father reversed the vehicle, he realized that he had run over his daughter.
The family rushed the girl to Hadera's Hillel Yaffe Hospital, where doctors pronounced her dead on arrival.